“Why do people throw their shoes on a wire?”

Shoes hanging from a telephone wire in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Image: Moralist)

One afternoon as we were driving down Route 1, The Four-Year-Old noticed a ratty old pair of sneakers hanging from a telephone wire along the road. “Mommyo, why do people throw their shoes on a wire?”

I had nothing, but as usual no amount of shrugging would satisfy The Four-Year-Old. So when we got to storytime, I Asked the iPhone while The Four-Year-Old was distracted by Huck the flower-eating goat.

Turns out there are nearly as many reasons for throwing shoes on a wire as there are people to throw them. Some of the reasons are pretty unsavory and involve explaining details of life that I’m not ready to share with The Four-Year-Old. Fortunately, there are lots of G-rated options to offer.

Tops on the family-friendly list:

  • To decorate one’s environment, because nothing says home sweet home like a ratty pair of sneakers hanging overhead
  • To keep away ghosts
  • To mourn the death of a loved one
  • To commemorate a rite of passage, such as the last year of school, a marriage, completing basic training, and so on

The shoe tree at Woodstock, IL. (Image: Avanderbosch)

On a related note, telephone and power lines aren’t the only things we humans like to festoon with shoes. Wikipedia reports that there are some 76 shoe trees in the U.S. alone. Some of those trees have themes (like the shoe tree dedicated to high-heeled fashion statements).

“Mommyo, can we go visit every shoe tree in Texas?”

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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One Response to “Why do people throw their shoes on a wire?”

  1. Pingback: Five years gone already? | CATERPICKLES

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